Me Marie-Helene Betournay entered the American College of Trial Lawyers, one of the highest honors to which a litigator can aspire. Less than one percent of lawyers are admitted, and this only by invitation and after a rigorous study of their case. Droit-inc spoke with the partner of Stein Monast.
What was your reaction when you found out that you were invited to join ACTL?
At first I was surprised. It took me a long time to digest the information. This is something big. I found out this fall by a call from Me Bernard amyot, who chairs the ACTL Quebec committee, but I couldn’t talk about it until the induction ceremony, which took place on March 5.
I especially felt very proud, since it is recognition by my peers of my professionalism, my rigor and my ethics.
What do you think has earned you this honor?
I have nearly 25 years of litigation and am very dedicated to my clients. The files for which I am mandated are often quite complex, whether at the technical or legal level. I often have cases of professional liability or construction, for example. I guess that’s part of what made me stand out.
Besides title and honor, are there any concrete benefits of becoming an ACTL Fellow?
It’s still brand new to me, so it’s hard to say. What I’m already seeing is that it gives me access to a pool of people with an inspiring profile.
ACTL also offers its members training programs which are, by their quality and diversity, very impressive. I was able to see it since my induction took place at the end of a three day training program.
We could see that the courses had been chosen and put together with care so that they could be useful to lawyers, whether it was to advance the law or simply to be aware of trends. There was even one with Bill clinton. It is really very interesting.
You practice primarily in insurance law, civil liability, professional liability and product liability. How did you orient yourself towards these specializations?
When you start and you are a young lawyer, you take the files entrusted to us and, gradually, you develop a specialty. After a first file to represent a construction engineer, we are better equipped to do a second. I had mainly insurance companies as clients initially.
If you stayed, it is because beyond chance, there was an interest. What drives you in your field?
The variety of files (none is the same, ever), the quality of the questions asked, the collegiality of the people who make up this industry … The professionals in this field, the revisers with whom I deal, are eminently competent people who have experience and experience in managing risks out of the ordinary. It’s so stimulating to work with teams like this!
What qualities do you need to demonstrate to become a good litigator?
Rigor, perseverance, the desire to learn.
I remember that at the beginning of my practice, I often told myself that I was eager to have more experience to be able to respond to my clients other than by “I will check and I will get back to you”. I was wrong, since I still say it today. I would even add that I will be worried the day I stop saying it, because the law evolves. We must constantly be on the lookout for changes. For this reason, the willingness to keep up to date is essential.
Several ACTL Fellows eventually rose to the bench. Is it in your long term intentions?
I am perfectly happy where I am now. I have a position that occupies me fully, I have developed with my colleagues a sector of which I am proud and to which I owe ACTL recognition.
Besides, I never doubted my place. It has always been clear to me that I would be a litigator in a private practice. I don’t see myself anywhere else at the moment, not at all.